Since its inception, Performa has been a leader in commissioning artists whose work has collectively shaped a new chapter in the multi-century legacy of visual artists working in live performance. For Performa 17, our team of curators, research fellows, and producers spent almost two years, since the last biennial, investigating a range of critical subject matters, in particular, the use of live performance as central to artistic practice in African art and culture, the intersection of architecture and performance, and the hundred-year legacy of Dada.

Performa curators visited Dakar, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Tangier, Johannesburg and Cape Town, examining how artists in these disparate cities consider performance as an extension of their creativity in multiple disciplines—visual art, music, dance, film, poetry, photography—and how each artist introduces us to distinct histories and sensibilities. The resulting commissions and scholarship examined immediate and critical concerns confronting our urban centers, the shifting political and cultural currents of our turbulent world, and ultimately the role of the arts and of artists in articulating the complex sociopolitical context informing contemporary art today. Each Performa Commission is conceived to engage audiences in significantly understanding and absorbing these many different aesthetics, values, cultures, and climates.

Performance and architecture have long been a focus of Performa, which has conspicuously taken the position to cross-pollinate the conceptual and actual underpinning of visual art and architectural vocabularies. For Performa 17, choreographers, architects, and performers created works that not only illustrate but also define new viewpoints for reading architecture, its spaces, and experiential substances, while utilizing existing plazas and buildings as frames and mirrors for action. Alongside these polemic inquires, and the programming they have produced, Performa, as with every biennial, selected a particular “historical anchor” to both build on our extensive archives, but also to provide reference and springboard for contemporary artists. This year, the powerful and disruptive Dada movement of a century ago continued to inspire and inform artists around the globe.

The Performa Biennial always provides an extraordinary and very public platform for showing the essential role of art in society. Through live performance we touch people directly, change their minds, and introduce them viscerally to the complicated emotional and aesthetic expressions of artists responding to the world in which we live today.


Thank you for being part of Performa 17!


Please visit our Performa 17 website for information about the biennial